Friday, June 28, 2013

Thirst for God

I am always amazed how God can place the same Scripture in front of you multiple times in a short period.  I obviously know that He is speaking to me when that happens and am thankful when He does that.  I have been reading some Psalms each day during my quiet time and yesterday I read Psalm 42.  These verses were very familiar to me as I have read many times.  As I meditated on this chapter I underlined verses 1 and 2:
1 As the deer pants for the water brooks,So my soul pants for You, O God.2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God;When shall I come and appear before God?
I had to ask myself in this moment if this is the way that I desire God.  If I am honest, while I do desire Him, I do not always desire Him to this extent.  Then maybe an hour later, I checked twitter and someone had tweeted Psalm 42:1. It was pretty amazing that this verse was placed before me and I realized that how God was definitely calling me to desire Him greater.

Then last night I laid down at about 1:30 am, after an amazing night of worshipping with one of my favorite bands "They Came Running" who is leading this summer at Fuge Camps at Carson Newman University.  I pulled up the Youversion Bible app on my phone as the verse of the day was updated since it was after midnight.  The verse of the day was Psalm 42:11:
Why are you in despair, O my soul?And why have you become disturbed within me?Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him,The help of my countenance and my God.
Who is this God that is drawing both you and I to desire Him more?  He is the God of hope.  The Only One who offers real hope.  He is our help and the Only One worth praise.  If you are in despair today, turn to Him.  If you are in need of comfort, He is waiting with open arms to hold you.  If you find that you are thirsty today, seek refreshment in God Almighty.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Big Picture- Part 2

This week at WNW was the 2nd part of "The Big Picture" after-camp series.  We began the night by breaking up into 3 groups.  Each group was given a few minutes to decide how they would describe a specific American holiday to someone from another country who has no knowledge of the holiday.  Each group took 2-3 minutes to describe the holiday while I asked questions to throw them off acting like I knew nothing about what they were talking about. Afterward I shared that sometimes we know about something as basic as an American holiday, yet we have trouble explaining.  We tend to overlook information in life that is basic.  Sometimes we also do the same in our Christian faith.

I introduced a little background on the book of 1 John about how John was addressing some false teachings and shortcomings in the church.  We began with 1 John 3:11 where he is reminding them to love one another.  We discussed why it is that we overlook this basic commandment as Christians.  We split up into our original groups and made a "Top 10" list of why it is sometimes hard to love people.  We got a lot of good responses such as:  because they hurt you, they are annoying, they are mean to you, etc.  I noticed that each of their responses had to with a way that the person has treated them.  I brought up the point that we often have trouble loving people who have not done anything against us though.

We then read 1 John 3:12 and talked about the story of Cain and Abel.  Both brothers presented an offering to God, but Cain withheld while Abel gave his best offering.  This displeased God and Cain became jealous from the comparison.  He allowed jealousy turn to hatred, and hatred led him to murder his brother.  We discussed how frustrating it can be when you are compared to someone else, especially a sibling.  However if we are not careful we can allow that frustration to lead to hatred, which is what John addresses next in 1 John 3:13-15.  First of all these verses tell us to not be surprised if the world hates us.  Not the most comforting verse but one that is definitely real.  Then John goes on to say that if we have hatred for others, then it is the same as murder.  Pretty harsh statement but one that we must take to heart.  However, when we have been saved and are a new creation in Jesus Christ, our life should not reflect hatred but of love.

I then took a bottle of water and poured a grape flavor packet in it.  The water became purple.  I asked the students that if they had not seen me pour the mix in, how would they know that it is something other than water?  They answered by the color, smell, and taste.  I shared that when we have been changed by Jesus, our lives should look differently just as we had discussed the previous week.  That change is that our lives reflect the love of Jesus.  We closed with 1 John 3:16-18 and a challenge that the love of Jesus is what the world is looking for, even when they do not realize it.  People are looking for love and acceptance and it is our job as Christians to point them to that same love of Jesus that we have encountered.

Monday, June 24, 2013

MFUGE 2013 Video

Here is the video I made to show at church of our recent MFUGE trip to Greenville, SC.  I also added some extra footage at the end to show to the students this past Wednesday of some of our sillier moments on the trip.

Friday, June 21, 2013

5 Year Anniversary

This past weekend was very special in addition to what God was accomplishing in our students at MFUGE.  It was my 5 year anniversary as youth pastor at Clearwater Baptist Church.  In some ways it seems like 5 days and in other ways it seems like 20 years.  However I am extremely humbled and thankful that I have the opportunity and privilege to minister to such an amazing group of students.  I shared with the students while at MFUGE that Hebrews 13:17 tells us to bring joy to ministers and not grief.  I told them that they have definitely brought joy to me and I am extremely thankful.

The church honored me by giving me cards from children and many Sunday School classes.  The 7th-8th boys Sunday School class gave me a signed baseball bat.  The youth as a whole gave me a journal.  I did not think much about it until I got home and looked through it.  In this journal has notes of encouragement, Scripture, and notes from the students and adult leaders themselves.  As Belinda and I read the notes, one moment we were wiping tears and the next we would be laughing hysterically.  I cannot explain how much I love these students!  I will always hold on to this journal and will reflect on it often.

The greatest gift was this:  we had the opportunity to share about our MFUGE experience in the 2nd worship service on Sunday.  I shared myself, as well as Belinda, Laura, Shane, and Phillip.  I was extremely overwhelmed by the ways that God has impacted our students and how they are being obedient to His call.  To hear the students share these things was the best gift I could ever ask for.  I am thankful for all the cards and notes of encouragement, but to hear student testimonies is one of my favorite things ever!  Not every student was able to share, but to see the glow on their faces it is obvious how God is at work in them all.

I am thankful for these 5 years.  There have been many up's and many down's.  I am proud to make it 5 years in youth ministry, but also at the same church.  The average tenure for a youth pastor is 2 years at a church, or even in ministry total.  This is something that the church needs to help change.  I am thankful for the things I have learned and the ways that God has used me during these years.  I am excited to see what else God has in store for me in the ministry and in my time at Clearwater.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Big Picture- Part 1

Last night at WNW we began a 3-week after camp study continuing the MFUGE theme "The Big Picture".  For the summer our Wednesday nights will look quite different than normal.  For one we are not doing any music with the worship band.  The night will be more discussion based than teaching from me.  We sat the chairs in a circle and began the night playing several rounds of "Never Have I Ever".  Afterward we discussed how it felt to be the one in the middle.  Students shared that it was awkward, they felt different, and didn't like being the center of attention.  We discussed how this applies to our Christian walk in life.  We are called to be differently and sometimes that means standing out different than the crowd.  We read 2 Corinthians 5:17 and discussed how we are a new creation once we have been saved and so our life should reflect that.

We then broke up into 2 groups to read Scripture and discuss some questions.  After about 15 minutes we gathered back together and went through these verses and questions as a whole group.

Group 1- Ephesians 4:17-19
-Who are the Gentiles?
-What does it mean "futility of their mind" (verse 17)?
-What does it mean "darkened in their understanding" (verse 18)?
-What comes to mind when you hear the phrase "worldly living"?  List several examples.
At this point we had 3 volunteers.  One was blindfolded, the other acted as a guide, and the other was calling the voice of the blindfolded person.  Everyone else rearranged chairs and made an "obstacle course" for the blindfolded person to navigate.  This was a visual example of what it talks about in verse 18 "darkened in their understanding" and then I tied it in at the end of our discussion.
Group 2- Ephesians 4:20-24
-What does it mean to "lay aside the old self" (verse 22)?
-What does it mean to "be renewed in the spirit of your mind" (verse 23)?
-How can you "put on the new self" (verse 24)?
-What is righteousness?
-If we have been changed through salvation, why do we so often run back to our old ways.

To wrap it up we read Hebrews 3:13.  Even though the blindfolded person in our previous example could not see, there were those helping guide him to the voice that was calling them.  This is how our lives should be.  Once we have been changed by Jesus, it is our responsibility to guide others to that same truth.  Whether they need to be saved, or are someone who is saved but have fallen away from following Christ.  This is why Christian community is necessary and essential for spiritual growth.  We help guide each other to Christ.  It was a great night doing things differently than normal.  I enjoyed hearing the students answer questions and share.  There were even some that are normally quiet that spoke up and shared which was great.  I am looking forward to continuing this theme over the next weeks and how God continues to use it to grow us.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

How MFUGE Impacted Me- Part 2

I shared yesterday how God convicted me about my sorry attitude on my track placement and how I still was blessed to lead Kevin to be saved.  Today I want to share how God impacted me with the track I was placed in.  I had decided after I got over my poor attitude that I wanted to get to know the people in my track group and hopefully be able to minister to them.  I did not realize I would be ministered to by them quite like I was.  

Often times in ministry you pour your heart out and know that you need to be ministered to, but you do not realize how much.  One thing that I love about being at camp is the community that occurs.  There is a love that surrounds you that is really overwhelming.  As I got to know some of the people in my ministry track, I felt that love.  I really connected with Becky who took the time to listen to me.  We shared experiences we have had over the years and how God has grown us through them.  Belinda and her connected greatly as well.  I hope someday we can meet again because I truly want to meet her family.  She had incredible parents who were in the ministry and they themselves have left and amazing legacy.  I also connected with a young man named Shaun who is a student at Liberty.  God is doing an amazing work in this man and his future has unlimited potentials.  I am committing to pray for his family as he seeks opportunities to minister to them.

I walked away from this week just blown away by how these two listened to me and opened up themselves.  The community there was simply amazing.  While I experience that here at home, if I am honest it is not to that extent.  For one I spend most of my time with teenagers instead of adults.  The other is because I do have great trust issues from the times that I have been hurt over the years.  I will always look back at this week and be thankful for how these two ministered greatly to me.

Then on the last day at ministry site my group went to an apartment complex that we had been to previously in the week.  Same routine as before, play frisbee and other games with the kids and show them love.  Later in the day this one girl wanted to blow bubbles and so I held a styrofoam cup filled with bubbles for her to dip her wand in.  For most kids blowing bubbles lasted about 5 minutes.  This little girl blew bubbles for about 45 minutes!  She drug me around the entire playground blowing bubbles at people and laughing every time.  Then at one point she said something to the effect "That guy is going to get me" and she latched on to me.  She literally wrapped her little arms around of my legs and clung tightly to me for at least 15 minutes.  She would not leave my side and wanted to be close to me.  There are not many kids that have really captured my heart.  I do not put myself out there when it comes to little kids, though I am not sure why.  My nephew Noah who is 9 years old is someone who I have really connected with in his life and I have a love for him that I cannot even put into words.  However, this little girl named Ava captured my heart in a way that I am simply blown away by.  I cannot even think about her without wondering what kind of life she has, how her home life is, or if even both parents are in the picture.  I would have brought this little girl home with me if I could, and that is saying a lot.  She melted my heart.  The only thing I know to do now is to pray for her and her family.  I am praying that she experiences the love at home that she deserves.  I am praying that her family are Christ followers, and that if not that through this summer they will be ministered to by the Mfuge groups that will be going there and that they will come to know Christ so that they too can lead her to know Him.  Just look at these pictures and tell me she doesn't melt your heart too!

As for Belinda and I, I feel so much closer to her.  We never felt distant at all, but my love for her has increased tremendously.  The Monday we left is the 3 year anniversary of her father's death.  As tough as that day is, I am so proud of the healing that has taken place in her.  God worked in her this week in a tremendous way.  I plan on sharing soon some of the things we have learned in the last three years.  I am thankful that she was able to go with us and the ways that God used her to minister while there.  I am thankful for all the ways that God worked in me and could share even more so how I have been impacted.  I feel extremely fortunate to be a part of this incredible student ministry and look forward to the ways that He continues to work in us.  These students made for an incredible week, and as I have not been around them as much since coming back, I miss them greatly and look forward to spending more time with them soon!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

How MFUGE Impacted Me- Part 1

I want to take some time to share how last week at MFUGE impacted me.  As a youth pastor your desire is that God makes a true impact on the students that you take to camp so that they are never the same.  At the same time you hope to be spiritually fed, but know that the focus is not at all on you.  However I do not think I quiet anticipated how much I would be fed this year.  This was my sixth summer taking students to Fuge camps, and this year by far impacted me the most.  There is something incredible that I take away from each of the years I have been a part of this, but I do not think any have had such an impact on my life.

First of all, we submitted our top three ministry track options before going to camp.  I chose three that I thought would stretch me, yet at the same time I wanted to be in.  For my three options I chose:  1) Evangelism, 2) Social, and 3) Children's.  I really hoped to either be placed in #1 or #2.  I did not even list Games & Recreation or PCY (Painting, Construction, & Yardwork) because I had no desire to be in either.  We received our cards that had a number telling us which group we were in and I discovered that I was placed in a group with three of our students.  In asking them what they listed as their options, I was convinced that we were in a Social ministry track.  When I later joined up with them in our group, I discovered that I was placed in Games & Recreation.  What?  How did this happen?  God what are you doing to me?  These were the thoughts that were running through my head.  I tried to not have a bad attitude about it but I did.  As we went out on our first day at site, our task was to play games with kids.  What a waste of my time I thought.  It's not that I am completely opposed to kids or even playing games, it just wasn't what I wanted to do.  After a couple of hours I checked Instagram and discovered that two of our students had just led a child to be saved!  How amazing!  I stood there with tears in my eyes as I was extremely proud of them.  However at the same time I was extremely jealous.  Why couldn't I have been placed in a track where I was intentionally supposed to be sharing the gospel.  I didn't even have that option in my track unless the children first asked a question that opened that door.  

The night before in our church group devotions I shared that the theme for the week would be "The Big Picture".  I told the students that we all have ideas of how our lives should look.  We even had ideas of what we thought that week of camp should look like. However, things rarely turn out the way we anticipate them.  We can rest assured and have peace in the fact that God's big picture is greater than the ones that we imagine in our own minds.  This was one of those moments I knew to be true, but was not allowing the truth to take residence in my heart.  I left site that day a little discouraged, but I remember praying and telling God "I know you have placed me in a track for a reason, please help me to have a better attitude and allow You to do Your work."  I confessed to the students that night in our group devotions that I had a sorry attitude about my track placement, but that I was ready for whatever God wanted to do through me.  Christopher also shared that he had similar thoughts about not being happy in his track placement.  He wanted to be in Evangelism, but was placed in Children's.  However he was one that led a child to be saved that day.  His exact quote that touched me was this:  "Through not getting what I wanted, God saved a child."

The next night after group devotions, Kevin came to me and asked if sometime we could talk.  He said if I had time the next day we could, just whenever worked for me.  I told him we would talk when we got back to the dorms.  It was there that he shared his heart with me that he had at times doubted his salvation.  He felt God speaking to him during the worship service that he really needed to be saved, and in the lobby of our dorms I had the privilege of leading him to the Lord!  The very thing that I was hoping I would have the opportunity to do with someone this week, God allowed me to do.  Not only was it that I led someone to Jesus, but it was one of our very own students.  I confess that I do not feel qualified to be a part of something so incredible, especially after having the attitude that I had.

Tomorrow I will share a little more about how God worked in me through this ministry track that I had no desire to be in.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

MFUGE '13 Day 5

Today was our last full day and we head back home in the morning. I'm not going to update much because we have to be out of our dorm in 5 hours so I need to a little sleep. Next week I'll post a better summary with some pics from the day also post about how God spoke to me this week. However I will summarize what is going on in me:  "My heart is full after being here this week. I came to minister to others, but I was definitely ministered to greatly." Pray for us and all of our friends traveling home tomorrow. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

MFUGE '13- Day 4

I first want to go back and highlight a few things from day 3. It was so late when this first thing occurred that I waited to post it until he could call his parents and tell them. After we got back in the dorms Wednesday night I had the privilege of talking with Kevin and leading him to be saved. We had an awesome time celebrating with him. I also wanted to share my favorite quotes from students during our group devotion time.
-"Evangelism isn't something to be practiced between 10 and 3."  This was from Shane as he shared his conviction and burden to witness more. 
-"I pray that The Lord will give me opportunities no matter the circumstances." - Phillip

Thursday was another great day. Sadly I didn't take but a couple of pictures. I have some to share that I got off Instagram. Today the Bible study focus was on the Holy Spirit and how he helps us by guiding us, comforting us, and convicting us. The message tonight was from Luke 22:39-51; 23:32-46. Our camp pastor spoke about the moment when Jesus was in the garden right before his arrest and crucifixion. The line he said that spoke to the most was "If you don't give up control, God can't transform you."  After a great time in group devotions we went to night life where several different games were played. We had the option of dressing up as a tacky tourist but the only one from our group that did was Tristan. His outfit was amazing and even got him on stage for a few minutes!

Please pray for us as we go on ministry tracks for the final time tomorrow. Pray for strength as we are all very tired. Pray for a good nights sleep tonight so we can be fully alert tomorrow and ready to serve. 

MFUGE '13- Day 3

I'm going to start out by apologizing because this going to be a brief update. I'm writing this at 1:15 am and really need to get a few hours sleep before the morning. Today was another incredible day. God continues to show up and do amazing things. Today goes down as a highlight day in my ministry tenure. I'll share more details on it later but it is really amazing how He is at work in our students. 

Tonight we had extended free time and went to eat at Mojo's then visit downtown Greenville and the amazing Falls Park. Of course we made a stop at the excellent coffee shop Spill the Beans. I am so excited about how close this group of students have become. Please pray for rest and strength as we are at the halfway mark and fatigue is setting in. Pray that He will continue to use us to have a kingdom size impact on this city. Pray that God will continue to speak and deal with us as He has been. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

MFUGE '13- Day 2

Today was our first full day of camp which means we went on our ministry sites for the first time. We started off the day with a personal quiet time, worship, and group Bible study before heading to our sites. After a few hours I saw the following picture posted on Instagram:

That is two of our students- Hayden and Christopher leading a child to be saved!  That is why we are here! We came to serve and have an impact on this city furthering the kingdom of God and this is exactly what is happening. 

After being back on site we had a little free time, dinner, and headed to worship. Tonight's message by our camp pastor Aaron Schwartz was one of the best ever. He taught from Genesis 1 on God's love for us. One of the main things that stood out to me was was the question he raised "Why do we look to other people to find our self worth?" We must find our value from God and His incredible love for us. After worship we had group devotions and discussed the message a bit further and heard from everyone about their ministry sites. We really had a great time together during devotions. We also discussed a little further the thought from the previous night that the big picture of this week won't necessarily turn out quite like we planned, but that is a great thing. My favorite statement came from Christopher when he talked about not getting in the ministry track he most wanted and leading the child to be saved today. He said "Through not getting what I wanted, God saved a child."

The last four pics are from our Night Life activity which was a photo scavenger hunt. We competed hard and even though we didn't win we got 3rd place out of 31 churches!  I am proud of our students for the ways they are being used this week, how they are growing closer as a group, and growing in their relationship with Jesus. Please pray we get rest and are ready for tomorrow. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

MFUGE '13- Day 1

We made it!  Mfuge 2013 has officially began!  We are so excited to be back in Greenville, SC and see what all God has in store. We drove in a little rain but by the time we made it to Greenville we were looking at blue skies. The ride over had plenty of great laughs and stories we will be talking about for a while. We got settled into our dorms, ate dinner, and headed to opening worship. It is obvious already that we are blessed with a great camp pastor and worship leader. We were split into our ministry tracks to prepare for the week.  We came back together as a church group and had group devotions. Our theme is "The Big Picture" and we will be looking at the large overall picture that Scripture points to which is restoring our broken fellowship with God. I shared with the students that we all have an idea of what the big picture of our lives should look like in our minds, however it isn't always the case. We all came into this week with an idea of what we hoped the week would look like. I challenged the students to let go of that idea and be willing to let God make it what He wants it to be, even if that is different than what we want. His will is best for our lives and we spent time in prayer asking Him to open our hearts to whatever His will is. We had some share the ways that He is already moving here. I am so excited that I have the opportunity to spend the week with such a great group of students and am excited to see all that God does.

Here are some pictures of from today. Be sure to follow us on Instagram and Twitter @opposite_way and by searching #cbcfuge13 

Friday, June 7, 2013

MFUGE 2013

Hard to believe that in just 3 days we leave for MFUGE at North Greenville University in South Carolina.  We are so excited to see how God uses us to minister to the people of this city and how He moves in each of our lives.  We ask that you pray for us to be used by Him for His glory, that we will get out of His way to do His work, and that we will listen to what He would have us hear.  I will post an update on this blog every day next week with some pictures so be sure to check back.  Also you can follow us on Twitter and Instagram under username @opposite_way.  We will be posting lots of pics everyday so check them out.  We will be using the hashtag #cbcfuge13 on all our post from the Opposite Way accounts as well as our personal accounts.  You can also follow me personally on Twitter and Instagram under username @nreaton.